Homebody: Whitewater suits Minett just fine
WHITEWATER--Lou Minett plopped down on the chair, peeled off his shoulder pads and practice jersey and began unwrapping the white tape off his fingers.
The UW-Whitewater senior defensive end had just finished practice under the gray skies at Perkins Field late Wednesday afternoon. By his calculations, Minett and his teammates have spent the equivalent of 35 24-hour days with football activities since they came together in August.
So far, all those five-hour days lifting and practicing have produced seven straight victories, including a 4-0 mark in the Wisconsin Intercollegiate Athletic Conference. On Saturday, the Warhawks host the only other perfect team in the conference, UW-Platteville, on Homecoming and Hall of Fame day on campus.
For Minett, every game at Perkins Stadium is a homecoming-type game. Minett graduated from Whitewater High, which is about a mile from the UW-Whitewater campus. After living his early years in Kenosha, and then a year living with his father in Illinois, Minett moved to Whitewater to live with his grandparents when he was entering the sixth grade.
“I came to visit my grandparents a couple of times and I said to myself, 'You know what? I like this place. I can ride my bike without any conflicts. There's no debris on the streets.”
So Whitewater became his home.
“It was one of the best decisions I ever made,” Minett said about his childhood move. “You don't think about making good decisions when you're young.”
Then when some of his classmates such as Tony Bilderback and Mike Gabbey decided to go elsewhere to attend college. Minett—an all-Southern Lakes Conference running back and defensive lineman--chose to go down the street.
Bilderback went to UW-La Crosse, where he caught 49 passes for 815 yards (16.7 avg.) and eight touchdowns in his career before suffering a season-ending shoulder injury early this season.
Gabbey will be standing across the field from Minett on Saturday. The 6-foot-2, 260-pound Gabbey is a defensive lineman for the Pioneers.
All three were in recruiting meetings as seniors. While Bilderback and Gabbey wanted to get away to go to school, Minett stayed put.
“I said, 'You know what? I'm staying here. I like this place.”
Both Minett and the UW-Whitewater football staff are glad he didn't move.
As a freshman, the 207-pound Minett defied the odds and saw significant playing time as a third-down, pass-rushing end on the Warhawks' NCAA Division III national championship team.
“I was just like a sponge listening to what everybody said,” said Minett, who credits the Warhawk coaching staff and the upperclassmen for his surprising freshman season.
He had an assisted tackle in the 31-21 victory over Mount Union in the Amos Alonzo Stagg Bowl.
“When people asked me what position I played, I'd say, 'Pass-rush specialist,'” Minett said with a chuckle. “I'd go in on third down when the big O-linemen were tired, and I would just run around them.”
His most memorable game came in the Stagg Bowl the next season. Now at 240 pounds, Minett had 16 solo and 16 assisted tackles and three sacks in the Warhawks' 15-0 season. In the 13-10 defense-dominated championship win over Mount Union, Minett had one tackle and two assisted tackles, was in on a quarterback sack and forced a key fumble.
He was named the Stagg Bowl's Most Valuable Player.
Minett still is amazed when talking about it.
“During the game, that was the last thing I was thinking about,” he said. “Then when I watch the game over, I'm like, 'Man, I was, I was great.' You know? Because during the game, you are just living in the moment.”
The Warhawks' streak of seven straight Division III national championship game appearances ended last season when the team went 7-3 and failed to earn a playoff bid.
Minett says he got too heavy and did not feel as effective as he was his first two seasons, when he mainly came in on third downs. Playing every down was a difficult transition.
With six solo and 10 assisted tackles and a team-high 4½ sacks this season, he feels he is back to being a pass-rushing force.
Defensive coordinator Brian Borland says Minett has advanced in several facets since his arrival.
“He's improved his on- and off-the-field maturity level,” Borland said. “He has become one of the vocal leaders of the defense. Players look to him to make big plays. He is one of our most explosive players.”
Minett's maturity is going to get several tests off the field.
He recently changed his major from occupational safety to healthy human performance with a minor in occupational safety. The switch will require him to complete another year of classes.
Minett would love to stay in football, even if it is as a strength and conditioning coach.
And he is engaged to be married to UW-Whitewater senior Angela Sorkan. Sorkan also was a student at Whitewater High and is a year older than Minett.
It wasn't close to being “love at first sight” in high school.
“We had a chemistry class together,” Minett said. “She didn't like me then, because I was brash.”
They saw each other at a beach two years ago, and some of the brashness must have washed away. Sorkan graduates in December, and the two will be married next summer.
She obviously is Minett's No. 1 fan.
“If she is not working, she is sitting front row,” Minett said. “She sits with all the intoxicated college kids and doesn't play any games. If she can't see what's going on, she's going to say something.”
If Minett and companions have their way, she and the rest of the expected capacity crowd will have plenty to cheer about Saturday.